Timbers Notebook: Ties to MLS Cup chase

The race to the 2009 MLS Cup is underway. And with the first round of Major League Soccer’s playoffs concluding this week, there are several players competing in the MLS postseason with ties to the Portland Timbers.
Primed for a Texas-style showdown
Defender Mike Chabala and the Houston Dynamo are matched up against MLS-expansion side Seattle Sounders FC in their Western Conference series. Featuring two of the top defensive units in MLS, the two teams played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of the series played in Seattle, Wash., last week. Chabala, who played in eight games with the Timbers while on loan in 2006 as a rookie, started for the Dynamo in the playoff contest against Seattle, and was booked with a caution in the 75th minute. The two-game series returns to Houston and Robertson Stadium on Sunday for the decisive match, where the Dynamo was 8-1-6 during the regular season.
A Playoff Super Classico 
An in-stadium rivalry in the Western Conference is taken to a whole new level as the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA battle it out for a spot in the conference finals. In Game 1 at the Home Depot Center last Sunday, the two clubs fought to a 2-2 draw. All four goals came in the first 50 minutes, but Galaxy forward Alan Gordon, who notched a team-high 17 goals for the Timbers on his way to USL-1 Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, kept things exciting with a pair of chances inside the final 10 minutes of the contest.
 
On the 18-man roster for the Galaxy against Chivas USA was backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who suited up for the Timbers from 2003-06. While on loan from an MLS club during most of his tenure in Portland, Saunders is the Timbers modern-franchise career leader in goalkeeper games played (90), wins (41) and saves (334). Other former Timbers on the Galaxy roster this season include forward Bryan Jordan (2007-08) and defender Leonard Griffin (2007-08).
 
The two sides flip flop as the Galaxy, the No. 1 seed in the West, hosts Chivas USA in the second leg of the playoff Super Classico at the Home Depot Center on Sunday; that match will be televised on ESPN2.
Ready for the call ...  
In the Eastern Conference, a pair of goalkeepers who have spent time in a Timbers kit also served as back ups in their respective semifinal-series opening matches.
 
Chris Seitz, who made two spot starts for the Timbers in 2009 for an injured Steve Cronin, supported starter Nick Rimando as Real Salt Lake defeated defending-MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew 1-0 in the first game of their series in Utah. Seitz, 22, made four starts for Salt Lake during the regular season and recorded a 1.25 goals-against average. Real Salt Lake will attempt to upset the 2009 MLS Supporters Shield-winner Crew as they wrap up their series Thursday on ESPN2.
 
In the other Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, the New England Revolution took advantage of their home field and recorded a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire. Goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who played in eight matches for the Timbers while on loan in 2008, backed-up Revolution starter Matt Reis. Knighton was called upon to make six starts for New England during the 2009 regular season. The Revs and Fire finish their series on Saturday in Chicago at Toyota Park on Saturday.
 
Depending upon the outcomes of the second leg in each series, there could be a player with ties to the Timbers on each team in the MLS conference finals, fighting for a shot at the MLS Cup.